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Lord Marksman and Vanadis
Episodes 9-10

by Jacob Chapman,

Praises be, Lord Marksman and Vanadis has finally returned to its strengths! Episode 9 is all about character drama, and 90% of those characters are Vanadis both old and new. While Tigre continues to fend off barbarian hordes, Elen is off to negotiate an invasion of close friend and fellow Vanadis Alexandra's lands by the less-friendly Vanadis cipher Elizavetta. Ultimately, nothing comes of the squabble plot-wise, but as an excuse to introduce and develop these two characters, it's strong material. The "Vanadis" in Lord Marksman and Vanadis continues to be the real draw of the show, and thankfully for more than the characters' bouncing breasts.

It's no surprise that Elen is closest with the gentle, considerate, passive-to-a-fault Alexandra, hereafter nicknamed "Sasha." She's like a more feminine version of Tigre in her sensitivity, honesty, and devotion to duty against all odds. She even has a dorky kinship with her weapons, referring to her fire daggers as her "little ones," much as Tigre clings to his family bow. It's to the show's credit that her foe, "Liza," is not demonized just for being on the antagonistic side of the conflict. Sasha admits that Liza may have good reason for attacking her, even if it's due to a misunderstanding, and for her part, Liza ends her potential fight to the death with Elen by offering her valuable information about the ally she values most, her beloved Tigre. Bloodthirsty or not, Liza seems to cherish personal bonds to a thoughtful and intriguing degree. Her attack on Sasha comes from feelings of betrayal, along with some unknown ulterior motives, and I'm already curious to learn more about both characters.

But before that can happen, there's more battling to be done! The fights come back full force in episode 10, but they're still in a more positive flavor than the filler-like chess games we'd been slogging through in the lead-up. While Elen's away, Ludmila arrives in full support of Tigre. Her position of neutrality doesn't bind her from taking out dangerous barbarians after all; even if they might have relationships with nobles, she can claim ignorance about it. Still, she's eager to end the battle in the most pragmatic way possible and with little obligation to Tigre. So she uses their collaborative strategy meetings more as an opportunity to indoctrinate Tigre with her ideas and put him under her thumb than a platform for equal partnership. Of course, Tigre is the star of the show, so the tables are turned on Mila here, and the end result is a little growth and mutual respect between Mila, Tigre, and even Elen.

In retrospect, episodes 8-10 make for a snazzy 3-parter on par with the series' first three episodes in cohesion (though not in execution.) The show continues to be weighed down by the same problems, which sting much sharper as we get further into the series. The budget is now being stretched within an inch of its life, turning wars between troops of thousands into mattes of identical low-poly CG soldiers floating towards each other. Even the attention once lavished on Tigre's bowmanship has been replaced with three quick frames of fired-off arrows, followed by three quick frames of Ludmila swinging her lance. It's pretty pitiful, and the show is forced to fall back on narration describing the outcomes of battles in lieu of the kinetic visual evolution that carried earlier battles like the blowout in episode 3.

While the sour pacing and limited budget continue to bring the series down, its strong core of fantasy worldbuilding and complex characters is allowed to breathe in these episodes again, and those little moments make the tedium in-between worth it. Ludmila's interference in the barbarian war gave the conflict so much more gravity than it had at first. This wasn't just a filler dispute on the way to eliminating the threat of Thenardier, but a striking step toward fully establishing Tigre as a grand-scale threat himself. Thanks to his actions, he is now seen as a third power on par with the crowns of Brune and Zchted, or the greedy Dukes Ganelon and Thenardier.

It's not an outcome he ever wanted, and it probably means that his days of fighting won't just end with Thenardier. After Tigre apologizes for all the lives past and future that the decision to protect his little spit of land will cost, Elen takes his hand. She tells him that all he can do is pray to whatever god he believes in and stand by his decisions without regrets. It's clearly the path that Elen chose for herself long ago, so now she offers it to Tigre alongside her. After a little more reflection, he squeezes her hand back, and they finally become equals, under a starry sky of endless possibilities. These are the great little scenes that should keep viewers coming back, rocky execution be damned.

Rating: B

Lord Marksman and Vanadis is currently streaming on Funimation.

Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.

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